Caribbean Beat Magazine

Gimme tempo

Find out why TEMPO is truly Caribbean


MTV Tempo, the American music channel’s foray into the Caribbean market, was launched in October to cable markets across the Caribbean, with a North American debut expected in 2006. Tempo joins Viacom’s roster of popular cable networks, which includes MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central, and BET.

Senior vice president and deputy general counsel of MTV Networks Frederick Morton, who was born and raised in St Croix, spearheaded the development of the network. Following the launch concert in New York in May, he told reporters, “Tempo will be built around music, and be dedicated to all things Caribbean: music, food, travel, sports, culture, and more. And I am very grateful to MTV Networks.”

The channel will air a mix of original and acquired programming, including series, specials, movies, documentaries, and sporting events. Shows will include offerings from MTV Networks’ programming library as well as series from local Caribbean networks. A couple months ahead of the launch, Morton talked with Tracy Assing via email about plans for Tempo and his love for Caribbean music.

How did MTV decide to give Tempo the green light?

[It was a] two-year journey of passion and persuasion! When we build business at MTV Networks, we develop, analyse the business case, and ask questions about strategic fit within the business. The business case, of course, took time to build, but was clearly there, with a recognisable consumer base passionate about all things Caribbean — multiple established industries looking for a platform to help expand and grow: namely, music, travel and tourism, sports, cuisine — all industries with passionate consumers and all of which have the ingredients for great television. Caribbean Americans make contributions on every level, and they have high educational levels, household incomes, home ownership levels, and entrepreneurial levels. As to strategic fit at MTV Networks, we know music and television, and music is one of the greatest exports of the Caribbean. It was not exactly an easy journey, but the strength of the proposition, the product, the richness of the community and culture, spoke for itself.

Why “Tempo”?

Tempo is real Caribbean! The word assumes rhythm . . . in fact, it is the rate of the rhythm. And that’s perfect, because Caribbean people are filled with the rhythm of life . . . a joie de vivre. The channel is about all things Caribbean. It’s about a Caribbean identity — regardless of whether we speak of Spanish, English, Dutch, or French Caribbean, it’s the same tempo, the word means the same in all the languages of the Caribbean. So it’s unifying, which is the overall theme of the channel. Tempo is one love. Tempo is the Caribbean vibe.

Are there many Caribbean people on your creative team?

Without question — Antigua, Bermuda, Belize, Trinidad, Jamaica, Cuba, St Vincent, Barbados, and we have an extended advisory team with folks from all over the Caribbean — Guyana, Panama, Honduras, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico. And in the end you really don’t have to be Caribbean to be Caribbean, you only have to subscribe to the vibe. That’s why the region has over 40 million visitors each year, and many of these people have become honorary “Caribbeans”.

It’s been proven that a positive presence on MTV translates well to record sales. Who are some of the artistes in the Caribbean you think might receive immediate gains from a presence on Tempo?

Well, we at MTV Networks absolutely believe that to be the case — that a presence on our channels without question positively impacts record sales. There are many artists, though, too numerous to name, because of the sheer volume of the truly remarkable artists in the region, in all the genres. Soca, reggae, and reggaeton artists will certainly benefit immediately, as those genres are either on the move or have been on the move for a while, but other genres will certainly benefit. Haitian music is outstanding, can’t stop zouk and compas, and bacchante from the Dominican Republic . . . but artists like Machel Montano, Rupee, Kevyn Little, T.O.K., Beanie Man, Luciano, Beres Hammond, Daddy Yankee, Don Omar, all stand to gain immediately.

Who are your favorite Caribbean artistes?

There are so many, I have no favorites. I love them all. Luciano, Machel Montano, Tito Puento, Celia Cruz, Victor Manuel, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Sweet Mickey, Taboo Combo, Beres Hammond . . . all beautiful.

What are your top five Caribbean songs?

Very difficult question, again because of the wealth of talent, but the following songs get me every time: Long Time, Arrow; Workey, Burning Flames; Downpressor Man, Peter Tosh; Running Away, Bob Marley; and One Dance, Beres Hammond.

Have you experienced Trinidad Carnival? What are your thoughts on it?

I’m a Carnival baby — love it! It is the greatest expression of creativity known to man. It is an equaliser (young and old, rich and poor), and it is a unifier (brings everyone together). If we could bottle and find a way to put it in drinking water, I’d recommend we do it . . . the world would be a much better place. My Caribbean upbringing impacts me on a daily basis. It gives me strength, taught me that hope and dreams are paramount, and nothing is impossible. For that, I am eternally grateful.